October 9, 2013

The first of autumn

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Remember that 3,000-calorie dinner (actually two within the space of a week) I had not so long ago?  Methinks tonight's dinner definitely blew that away… by a very wide margin…

The last time we met, my friend the Krug Lover and I discussed the possibility of booking the Krug Room so he could try it out.   He was pretty excited at the prospect, so I checked with Uwe on the next available date and - after ruling out an earlier date because of a pre-existing conflict - settled on tonight. I figured we needed a reasonably big crowd, so I asked Krug Lover to invite a few of his friends while grabbing a couple of mine.

I arrived at the Mandarin Oriental, got upstairs and walked through the Chinnery as I normally would.  I wasn't expecting to be stopped by a bouncer, who informed us that the room wasn't ready.  They were preparing a surprise for us, and we would only be allowed to enter the room once everyone has arrived, as we needed to be surprised simultaneously.

So I was dutifully led back outside, where we were seated in the bar section of Mandarin Grill + Bar, and served our first glass of Krug while waiting for the whole gang to get here.  Unfortunately, that was gonna take a while because My Favorite Cousin was running pretty late.  So I sat down and took a few sips of Krug Grande Cuvée

When transpired next was nothing short of surreal.  Krug Lover and his wife greeted the couple they had invited, and it turned out the husband is the very client whose dramatic weight loss had inspired me to embark on my current diet!  What a small world!  Tonight would be the third time we met up within the last week.  So… there would be two of us cheating tonight…

Finally, with the arrival of My Favorite Cousin, we were finally ready to enter the room.  The door was pushed open, and this was the scene that greeted us:

I immediately regretted my decision - out of sheer laziness - not to bring my wide-angle lens tonight.  I would have loved to take some real artistic shots of this setup.

Uwe came in and told us that we have found ourselves in the middle of a forest in autumn.  Earlier in the day he mentioned that we would be getting a preview of his new menu, and it turned out tonight was the first evening it was be served.  What a privilege!

Once we took our seats, this is what I saw in front of me… a TON of dried leaves spread out on the table, so that most of the tabletop had been covered.  Four pumpkins were strategically placed, as were glass vases with plant arrangements.

Pumpkin: savory / crouton / marshmallow / iberico / seeds - we opened up the tops of the pumpkins to reveal the finger food inside.  The slice of jamón ibérico sat on a piece of croûton.  The pieces of pumpkin were scored, roasted with vinegar, and stuck with pumpkin seeds.  Yummy.  Finally there were pumpkin-flavored marshmallows.

Branches: pumpernickel / malt / herb butter - this was familiar from my last visit.  Malt and pumpernickel bread sticks made to look like branches, and actually very delicious on their own.  Even better with that killer herb butter on the side…

Cep gougère - another old favorite from the previous menu.  Wonderful flavors of ceps, and perfect for the fall.

Picnic : home cured / foie gras / pickle / mushroom - there are usually lots of goodies in a picnic basket, and so it's no surprise that there is a full spread on the table…  First up is an edible forest floor, featuring both some white mushrooms and girolles, slices of black truffles with truffle vinaigrette, and some greens.

Next we have some home-cured pork: cooked ham, air-dried ham, salami and mortadella.  All very yummy.

Foie gras was molded into the shapes of mushrooms and snails.

Then we have a few jars with pickled goodies.  There were these smoked quail eggs…

…and some sour pickled cucumbers

…and pickled girolles.

Well, our forest picnic was over, so we were asked to sweep all the dried leaves off the marble table onto the floor.  It's not often that one is asked to make a mess at a fine dining establishment…  Proper placements were subsequently brought out.

Tartare: smoked / beef / salad leaves - veal tartare with sherry and vinegar sauce, wrapped in greens like a ssam.  Gone in two bites.  Or was it one?

Crab tacos: king crab / avodaco / celeriac - how interesting that the taco shell was made from a thin slice of celeriac!  Gone in another two bites…

Consommé: tea / bag / gold / custard - so Uwe's playing with our food again… A pewter (at least I think it was) cup was set in front of us with a "tea bag" inside.

Actually there was a layer of mushroom custard at the bottom, and the "tea bag" containing flowers and gold leaf sat on top of the custard.  We waited patiently as the chefs came to put the finishing touches…

As the consommé was poured in, the "bag" melted and released the contents, making an infusion in our cups.  The wonderful marriage of mushroom custard and consommé is something Uwe has been doing for a while.

Lobster: cauliflower / leek / onion - very tender and succulent, with both cauliflower and parsley mash on the side, as well as what I thought was parsley foam on top.

Amadai: soufflé / oxtail / Bordelaise - aaaahhh… Uwe's amadai (甘鯛) with the layer of crispy, curled-up scales.  And of course the little potato puff that's meant to play the part of "chips" in fish and chips.  This time, though, he combined it with some organic oxtail done in sauce bordelaise.  I thought the combination was pretty damn good.

Turbot: whole / potato / leek - a while ago Uwe showed up and gave us a look of the turbot that we would be having tonight.

After roasting, the fish was brought back to the table, where the chefs proceeded to divide it up into individual portions…

But before serving, Uwe sliced off one of the "fingers" from the Buddha's hand (佛手柑), and proceeded to shave some of the deliciously fragrant rind on top of the turbot.

Et voila!  My slice of the turbot.  Very nicely done, with some jus from the turbot mixed with olive oil.  I thought the flesh was pretty pretty and reasonably tender, but tough and unfair to compare it with Cantonese steamed fish.

We mustn't forget the sides!  The creamed leek was simply DIVINE!  I knew this was killing but diet, but couldn't help spooning more of it onto my plate.  OH-MY-GOD!!!

Not to say that the new potatoes weren't good, but I only like my potato to come in three forms, and this ain't one of them.

Pork: belly / breakfast / egg - Aaaahhhh… Uwe's "bacon and egg" dish.  One portion was made table-side to demonstrate the process.  A duck egg was fried on the hot pan, and jus was added in addition to some lucky sorrel.  Then the iberico pork belly, of course!  Gobble gobble gobble…

Beef: candle / calotte / mushroom - despite the fact that most of the group have not been to the Krug Room before tonight, we all learned very quickly that "nothing is as it seems" in this room, and just about anything on the table is edible.  So when this candle showed up in front of us, my friend quickly asked: "Is this edible?"  And of course it was!  Made with bone marrow and fat, I ended up slicing up a teeny bit of it for a taste.  Yup, tasted exactly the way I expected… with that amazing richness only fat and marrow can deliver.

This was a whole piece of calotte, or ribeye cap, carved table-side.  It was very tender, tasty and done perfectly.  Unfortunately I was way too full at this point, and could finish only half the chunk.  I felt really bad about wasting such a beautiful piece of meat.

The sautéed mushrooms were pretty good, but perhaps just a tad too much salt.

Uwe brought out the mashed potatoes and said that he wanted to give Monsieur Robuchon some competition.  Whoa!  Them's fightin' words!  This was a pretty good effort… close, but no cigar.  I felt the graininess was just a little more noticeable on the tongue.

But the caramelized onion gratin was sooo unbelievably yummy.  If I could have taken more, I would have kept spooning it into my mouth… like the creamed leek.

The savory part of the meal was finally over… and we can now start on the first of our three desserts!

Cheese cake: Babybel / cake / digestive - I liked this the last time I was here, and devoured it in no time.    Yes, that's the creamy part of the cheese cake made to look like Babybel, with some digestive cookie crumbs.

Peach: stone / raspberry / vanilla - Uwe's take on peach Melba.  The "peach" was a candy shell that needed to be broken to get to what's inside…

…which was a mousse made with raspberries and vanilla.  The "stone" was of course edible, and there were bits of raspberry frozen with liquid nitrogen.

Finally, our table was cleared one more time, and everything - include the wine glasses - was taken off the table.  Uwe and his chefs were ready to do another masterpiece, much like Krug on the Moon that I had so much fun with a few months ago.  We all squeezed together at the far side of the room while the chefs painted on the silicone canvas…

Autumn: mushroom / tree / coffee / blueberry - so this was the "grand dessert", the masterpiece.  We're back in the autumnal forest.  Remarkably, there was something here that wasn't edible - the tree trunks.  But everything else was.

This time it was cep and caramelized milk pudding that was solidifying in front of us, and Uwe had to check to make sure that enough time had elapsed.  Pretty cool.

The "moon rocks" of old are still really yummy, and My Favorite Cousin - who is a chocolate fiend - kept digging her spoon into it.  If it would have survived the trip back home, I'm sure she would have packed it in a doggie bag.

I stayed away from what I thought was the sponge cake, but was told that it was actually harder than expected.  The "mushroom" was actually made with a "biscuit" that wasn't quite half a macaron.

The chocolate pine cone had chocolate caramel inside, but the chocolate fiend insisted that I be the first to poke at it and check it out.

The killer, of course, was the black truffle chocolate truffle.  How do you not like this?!

With this crowd, there's always plenty of wine.  Krug Lover had complained in the past about me not bringing enough wine, so I made sure there was no chance of that tonight.  I am grateful to Uwe for making an exception and allowing us to BYO.  I made sure we brought magnums so there was plenty to go around...

Krug Grande Cuvée - we started with two glasses of this.  Toasty, oaky, a little yeasty.  Nice and mature on the palate.

2004 Didier Dagueneau Silex, en magnum - somewhat pungent, pipi de chat, a little green apple and pretty heavy toast.  Not bad but I was kinda hoping for better.

2000 Krug - a little yeasty and bready.  The palate was kinda not ready at first, and was a little bitter.  Opened up nicely when it warmed up.

1994 Chapoutier Ermitage L'Orée, en magnum - I was very worried about this, since the last time I brought out a magnum from the same case, the nose was fine but the wine was declared dead by my host.  So I asked my friend to come over and check out the wine before we went to dinner.  Once again the nose was fine, but the palate was barely there.  We decided the wine wasn't corked, and brought it to dinner to see how it would drink.  Well, after a couple of hours of aeration, the nose had prominent acetone and botrytis notes, which was surprising.  Still not much of a palate, though…

2007 Hospices de Beaune Mazis-Chambertin Cuvée Madeleine Collignon, elevé par Faiveley, en magnum - arguably the best wine from the Hospices de Beaune.  Really sweet nose, fruity, a little exotic coconut butter, floral like frangipani.  Dried herbs.  A lovely wine.

1995 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Heimbourg Sélection de Grains Nobles - very nutty, like pecans, honey, orange blossom.  Very sweet on the palate.  Absolutely delicious.

This was an amazing evening.  Once again, I felt my stomach was about to burst, very much likes the Knights Who Say Ni…  Why does Uwe try to do this to me every time?!  I think my friends all had a good time - I know I certainly did.  Now let's see how long it takes me to recover from this meal...

1 comment:

Tom said...

The forest picnic is a nice idea- like the pine made with caramel.


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